News & Events

Mass. MDs snub state’s health reform

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2010 Edition

For the first time the Massachusetts Medical Society has asked doctors what they think about health reform in its annual “Physician Workforce Survey” of 1,000 practicing physicians in the state, and the results may strike some as surprising.

A plurality of the physician respondents, 34 percent, picked single-payer health reform as their preferred model of reform, followed by 32 percent who favored a private-public insurance mix with a public option buy-in. Seventeen percent voted for the pre-reform status quo, including the permissibility of insurers offering low-premium, high-deductible health plans.

Remarkably, only 14 percent of Massachusetts doctors would recommend their own state’s model as a model for the nation. A small number of respondents, 3 percent, chose an unspecified “other.”

In other words, the doctors with the most onthe- ground experience with the Massachusetts plan, after which the Obama administration’s new health law is patterned, regard it as one of the least desirable alternatives for financing care.

The findings contrast with an earlier survey of Massachusetts physicians’ opinions on health reform funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2009, found that three-fourths of doctors in the state support the Massachusetts reform law. However, the survey did not allow respondents to express their preference for alternative models of health reform.

Dr. Rachel Nardin, chair of neurology at Cambridge Hospital and president of the Massachusetts chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, said, “Massachusetts physicians realize that the state’s health reform has failed to make health care affordable and accessible, and will not work for the nation. These findings show the high support for single-payer Medicare for all by physicians on the front lines of reform.”

While many in the country look to Massachusetts as a role model for the country, Dr. Patricia Downs Berger, co-chair of Mass-Care, the single-payer advocacy coalition in Massachusetts, and a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, notes, “Physicians in Massachusetts, particularly after health reform, know from experience that the current health care system is not sustainable and is not addressing the deep inequalities and high costs faced by patients, and they are calling for a more fundamental change.”

A survey published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in April 2008 showed that 59 percent of U.S. physicians support government action to establish national health insurance, an increase of 10 percentage points over similar findings five years before.